Established as a national forest in 1909, Superior National Forest is located in far northern Minnesota. Big pine timber logging began in the Superior National Forest in the 1890s and continued into the 1920s. Logging was not easy in Superior National Forest, and much of the area remained untouched because of the border lakes region, which presented numerous challenges to the logging companies in accessing and harvesting the stands of timber. In the 1890s, vast extents of the border lakes forests had been stripped away in Michigan and Wisconsin. The early logging was accomplished by means of river driving of logs. That was one of the types of logging that my grandfather was involved in. The logs were cut down,and then floated down the river to the saw mills. The method was a good one, but it could also be dangerous. Many a man was pinched between the logs, and many died. I’m very thankful my grandfather, Allen Luther Spencer was not one of those poor men who lost their lives doing this job. As timber near rivers became depleted, railroad logging became the primary method of getting the wood to the mill. Frozen ground conditions in the winter steered the logging industry to build ice roads providing greater access to timber stands. Logging after 1929 focused more and more on pulp species and the wood products industry.
Soon, it became evident that the logging industry, while a good a profitable industry, had the potential to deplete the natural resources in the Superior National Forest. In 1921, Arthur Carhart (Forest Landscape Architect) published “Preliminary Prospectus: An Outline Plan for the Recreational Development of the Superior National Forest.” It was released following a survey conducted by Carhart and Forest Guard Soderback in the Boundary Waters region. This publication began to set the framework for the future designation of the BWCAW.
In 1930, Shipstead-Newton-Nolan Act was passed placing restrictions aimed at preserving the wilderness nature of lake and stream shorelines. By 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt designated the Quetico-Superior Committee to work with government agencies in the conservation, preservation, and use of northeast Minnesota’s wilderness areas. 1948 brought the Thye-Blatnik Act authorized the federal government to acquire private land holdings within roadless areas, thereby increasing federal acreage within the boundary waters roadless area. In 1949, the passage of Executive Order #10092, established an airspace boundary over the boundary waters roadless area. Highly controversial, this order effectively ended a particular type of recreation in the boundary waters, that of the remote fly-in resort. Resort operators had until 1951 to halt air traffic within 4000 feet of the roadless area.In 1958, The Superior Roadless Areas were renamed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA). Conflict over motorized use in the roadless area increased during this time. The passage of the national Wilderness Act in 1964, with special provision regarding the BWCA, allowed some motorized use and logging within the Boundary Water’s wilderness boundaries, but by 1978, with the passage of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, which was specific to the BWCAW. This legislation eliminated logging and snowmobiling, restricted mining and allowed motorboats on 1/4 of the water area. While logging is necessary, I can’t help but agree with the preservation of the beautiful Superior National Forest.